Tesco announces huge redistribution boost though food waste also on the up

Tesco has reported that food waste generated across its UK operations rose by 9.3 per cent to 46,684 tonnes in 2016/17, though the amount of surplus food redistributed to community schemes also rose by a much more palatable 148 per cent.

Tesco announces huge redistribution boost though food waste also on the upThe figures, published last week in the retailer’s annual report, revealed that it sold 9.95 million tonnes of food in 2016/2017, with 71,178 tonnes going to surplus, meaning that 0.5 per cent of food was wasted.

This means that while the amount of waste created by the supermarket had decreased significantly over the last three years, falling from 48,182 tonnes in 2013/14 to 42,680 tonnes in 2015/16, in the past year an extra 4,004 tonnes has been wasted over the past year.

Of that waste, 82 per cent (38,653 tonnes) was sent to anaerobic digestion, with the remaining 8,031 tonnes treated through ‘energy recovery’. None of the supermarket’s food waste went to landfill.

In that same period, however, the amount of food surplus donated to community groups has risen from just 268 tonnes in 2013/14 to 5,700 in 2016/17 with this final figure representing a huge increase on 2016’s figure of 2,303 tonnes.

With CEO Dave Lewis a leading proponent of the global fight against food waste, Tesco has made a commitment that no food from its UK retail operations that is safe for human consumption will go to waste, and with the building of its Community Food Connection programme, the store expects surplus donations in 2017/18 to double again to 11,700 tonnes.

The Community Food Connection connects stores to community groups using the FareShare FoodCloud app, alerting groups each day to the amount of surplus food available. Since 2015, Tesco says the programme has provided over six million meals for people in need.

Lewis is the Chair of the Champions 12.3 coalition, a group of CEOs, government ministers and non-governmental organisations set up to mobilise action against food waste across the world. As well as increasing its food redistribution efforts in the UK, Tesco has set a commitment to offer surplus for donation from all Central European stores by 2020 and all Malaysian Hypermarkets by the end of 2017/18. In order to meet these goals, in the last year it has expanded its redistribution programmes in 400 stores across Central Europe and is trialling an app similar to the FareShare Foodcloud platform in Malaysia.

Tesco announces huge redistribution boost though food waste also on the up
26 per cent of Tesco's food waste in 2016/17 came from chilled products

Last month, Parliament’s Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee called for all retailers to be forced to publish their food waste figures, with only Tesco and, for the first time last year, Sainsbury’s doing so (recording that it created 1.16 kilogrammes of food waste per square foot in 2015/16).

Lewis has previously called for more transparency among retailers, suggesting that by making known what hot-spots exist in retail waste creation solutions can be more easily found and developed.

The figures published in the report show that the 4,000-tonne increase in food waste was primarily attributed to increases in the Produce (35 per cent of all food waste), Bakery (eight per cent) and Chilled (26 per cent) categories. It says that reasons for these increases.

In it’s annual report, Tesco states: ‘This year we are changing the way we report our data in order to be even more transparent. As well as continuing to share the product category breakdown of food waste, we are now also sharing a breakdown of our 2016/17 food surplus, the year-on-year increase of surplus donations and a breakdown of our surplus destinations.’

The new data on surplus shows that this year 38,696 tonnes of surplus food were safe for human consumption. Of this, 5,700 tonnes were donated to community schemes and food banks; 16,605 tonnes went to animal feed and 16,391 tonnes went to anaerobic digestion and energy recovery.

Tesco explains: ‘Our first priority is to reduce surplus food by working with our supplier partners. Where surplus exists, we look to donate this to people in need. Our donations have increased from 2,303 tonnes last year to 5,700 tonnes in 2016/17 – an increase of 148 per cent. At our current rate of donations, we are on track to donate over 11,700 tonnes next year.’

Supply chain work

The report also reveals that Tesco has been looking at food waste elsewhere in the grocery supply chain and following its sale to consumers.

Five apps taking the fight to food waste
The FareShare FoodCloud app enables community groups to see what surplus food is available at their local Tesco store
In terms of supply chain waste, Tesco says it is making links between our growers and our fresh and frozen suppliers to tackle waste. The report states: ‘We are supporting our prepared foods supplier to take onions which don’t quite meet the grade for fresh packs. They are then used in a wide range of products such as ready meals, salads and soups. As a result, over 6,000 tonnes of onions per year are kept within the human food supply chain, which may have otherwise gone to waste.’

Following a survey carried out last year, the Food Standards Agency said that too many people have misconceptions about freezing products, which can be used as ‘a pause button’ to make food go further.

Tesco says that in the last year it has worked to enable customers to preserve their products for longer, introducing more frozen ranges like watermelon, beetroot, coconut and pomegranate, while it has also looked at packaging, for example its chicken fillet packets, which have separate compartments for each fillet to allow one to be frozen while the other is used.

Tesco’s full Annual Report 2016/17 can be found on the Tesco plc website.

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